Daily Archives: January 25, 2012

Endangered sea lions bound for extinction under fishing plan

Friday, 20 January 2012, 2:11 pm
Press Release: Forest and Bird

Friday January 20, 2012 – Wellington
Forest & Bird media release for immediate use
Endangered sea lions bound for extinction under fishing plans
Forest & Bird said Friday the public interest and care being given to a sea lion and her pup in Dunedin highlights how important the endangered sea lions are to New Zealanders – and the need to halt their slide toward extinction.

An endangered New Zealand sea lion and its pup have drawn many visitors to Tomahawk Beach in Dunedin and the Department of Conservation has put up a temporary fence around the pair, with volunteers keeping watch to ensure they are not harmed.

The attention being given to the pair underlines how much New Zealanders and visitors value the critically endangered species. Sea lions only occasionally appear on the mainland, usually on Otago and Southland beaches, Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Subedar said.

“It’s lovely to see how much Otago people value these native animals, but at the same time people are flocking to see the few sea lions that visit our mainland shores, the main breeding population in the Auckland Islands is heading towards extinction,” she said.

The government is planning to remove squid fishing restrictions designed to reduce deaths of sea lions in the Sub-Antarctic islands as a new fishing season gets underway on February 1, she said.

“If we can’t protect this population in the Sub-Antarctic Islands, eventually we won’t see them anymore on the mainland or anywhere else.”
Recent research done by Department of Conservation scientist Dr Louise Chilvers found if current trends continue, New Zealand sea lions will be all but extinct by 2035.

The numbers of New Zealand sea lions have plummeted 50 percent over the last 12 years and research indicates the main cause for the decline is the sub-Antarctic squid fishery. Such a swift decline in a long-lived slow-breeding species is not sustainable.

Until now, the government has imposed a limit on the number of sea lions that may be killed by the squid fishery. If this number is exceeded, the fishery is closed down for the season. The current plan, despite the research predicting the extinction of sea lions, removes any limit on sea lion by-kill.

“The sea lion is listed in the same threat category as a Maui’s dolphin or a kakapo,” Katrina Subedar said.

“We wouldn’t allow hunting that caused the deaths of kakapo, so it is shocking that the government is poised to allow this native species to be driven into extinction in our lifetimes.”

“It’s important that as many New Zealanders as possible sign Forest & Bird’s online petition or write to Primary Industries Minister David Carter before the end of this month to tell him we have to work harder to save our sea lions, she said.


The Sub-Antarctic squid fishery overlaps with the breeding and feeding area of sea lions living in the Auckland Islands. Squid is one of the main food sources for sea lions, which are sometimes killed in the squid nets, and the reduction of available food caused by fishing is also likely to be harming the population.
The Ministry of Fisheries claims the use of sea lion exclusion devices, which are fitted to trawl nets with the aim of allowing the animals to exit the nets, means there is no longer any need to set a limit on the number of sea lion deaths. But the ministry has provided no evidence the devices are working as intended and overseas research suggests they could cause fatal injuries to marine mammals.

The latest Sub-Antarctic squid fishing season starts on February 1 and the government is due to soon announce its final decision on whether the limit on sea lion deaths will be removed.

Forest & Bird has asked the government to progressively reduce to zero the limit on the number of sea lions that can be killed by the fishing industry. This could easily be done by replacing trawl nets with safer fishing methods such as jigging.

The government also needs to adopt a management programme which would outline the steps needed to increase the number of New Zealand sea lions to levels that would make them safe from the threat of extinction.

Forest & Bird’s online New Zealand sea lion petition can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/84brzze



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Biodiversity crisis: Habitat loss and climate change causing 6th mass extinction


Scientists meeting at the University of Copenhagen have warned that biodiversity is declining rapidly throughout the world, describing the loss of species as the 6th mass extinction event on the earth. The world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, with the challenges of conserving the world’s species larger than mitigating the negative effects of global climate change.

Related: Climate change and habitat loss threaten biodiversity, extinction rate underestimated | Species biodiversity under threat from the velocity of climate change | UN study says biodiversity loss unstoppable with protected areas alone | Oceans at high risk of unprecedented Marine extinction scientists warnRelated Event: Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction – a film and discussion – San Fransisco on Sunday January 29, 2012.

The scientists and policymakers met last week in Copenhagen to discuss how to organise the future UN Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – an equivalent to the UN panel on climate change (IPCC). The conference was arranged and hosted in cooperation with the Danish Ministry of Environment and took place at the University of Copenhagen, where more than 100 scientists and decision makers, primarily from EU countries were gathered.

The conference concluded that dealing with the biodiversity crisis requires political will and needs to be based on a solid scientific knowledge for action to be taken to ensure a safe future for the planet. It is estimated that about 30,000 species go extinct each year, some three species per hour. This is not a new crisis. The World Conservation Union in 2004 reported on the Escalating global species extinction crisis.

Two recent scientific papers have emphasised that Climate change and habitat loss threaten biodiversity, extinction rate underestimated. The oceans are also in imminent peril with Marine Extinction looming with Ocean Acidification increasing, with marine scientists warning in June 2011 that the Oceans at high risk of unprecedented Marine extinction, including Extinction of coral reef ecosystems.

Five previous mass extinctions have occurred in the planet’s history, the last time being 65 million years ago – the end of the age of dinosaurs. These previous extinction events were driven by global changes in climate and in atmospheric chemistry, impacts by asteroids and volcanism. The present event, the 6th mass extinction, is driven by a competition for resources between one species on the planet – humans – and all others. Accelerating habitat degredation and loss is the primary process. The process is worsened by the ongoing human-induced climate change which particularly impacts fragmented ecosystems.

Human population is basically overpopulating the planet and driving species to extinction through destruction of native habitat and landuse conversion to industrial scale agriculture. Kevin J Gaston in a 2005 paper on Biodiversity and extinction: species and people (PDF) detailed that “The most important agent of change in the spatial patterns of much of biodiversity at present is ultimately the size, growth and resource demands of the human population…giving rise to levels of global species extinction largely unprecedented outside periods of mass extinction.”

Researchers have found that bird species most at risk are predominantly narrow-ranged and endemic to the tropics, where species have small ranges and are imperiled by human land use conversions. Most of these species are currently not recognized as imperiled. “Land conversion and climate change have already had significant impacts on biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. Using future land-cover projections from the recently completed Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, we found that 950–1,800 of the world’s 8,750 species of land birds could be imperiled by climate change and land conversion by the year 2100.” says the research paper on Projected Impacts of Climate and Land-Use Change on the Global Diversity of Birds published in PLoS Biology in June 2007.

Another recent multi-author study has found that preservation of plant biodiversity provides a crucial buffer to negative effects of climate change and desertification in drylands. This is important as Dryland ecosystems cover 41% of the land surface of the Earth and support 38% of the human population.

Scientists have recently calculated the velocity of climate change to be 27.3 km/decade on land, and 21.7 km/decade in the ocean. This rate of movement of thermal climate envelopes poses problems for species facing a high speed migration, or a difficult and abrupt adaptation or extinction. For terrestrial species this involves migration polewards or to a greater altitude. For species that live on the top of mountains, ecosystem islands in the sky, they face a grim future of adapting to a warmer environment or extinction as they compete with species moving up from lower altitudes. Species from the tropics with small ranges are particularly threatened.

Professor Carsten Rahbek, Director for the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen said “The biodiversity crisis – i.e. the rapid loss of species and the rapid degradation of ecosystems – is probably a greater threat than global climate change to the stability and prosperous future of mankind on Earth. There is a need for scientists, politicians and government authorities to closely collaborate if we are to solve this crisis. This makes the need to establish IPBES very urgent, which may happen at a UN meeting in Panama City in April.”

So, how can you help stop extinctions? The sixth extinction website, a website about the current biodiversity crisis, gives a list of small but concrete measures you can take on a personal level.

These include:

  • Donate or join nature conservation organisations
  • Buy Stewardship Council products
  • Say “No” to Bad Souvenirs
  • Use Green electricity
  • Visit parks and nature reserves
  • Respect the environment
  • Don’t release pets into the wild

I would add to this list to reduce your carbon foootprint through reduced consumption and encouragement of reuse and recycling.

Establishment of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) joins the Convention on Biodiversity which came into force on 29 December 1993, and the UN Environment Programme on Biodiversity in tackling the biodiversity crisis on a global level.


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